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A STORY ABOUT A REAL MAN                                                                     81
And Alexei remembered the sad story about this old
woman's family, and the story about the chicken that
bore the name of Partisanka, and everything—the old
woman, Varya, and the steaming iron pot on the table
emitting that delicious smell—floated in a welter of tears
through which he saw the stern eyes of the old woman
gazing at him with infinite pity.
"Thank you, Granny," was all that he could say as
the old woman made for the door.
And when she had reached the door he heard her say:
"Don't mention it. What is there to thank me for? My
sons are in the war too. Perhaps somebody will give
them broth. Eat it. May it do you good. Get well."
"Granny! Granny!" Alexei tried to get up, but Varya
restrained him and gently pushed him back on the mat-
"Lie down, lie down! Here, take some of this broth."
She offered him the aluminium lid of a German army
billycan, from which rose a deliciously fragrant vapour,
and turned her head away, evidently to hide the tears
that came unbidden to her eyes. "Take some," she re-
I'Where is Grandad Mikhail?'^
"He's out. He's gone on business. To find out where
the District Committee is. He won't be back for a long
time. But take this broth. Take it."
Right under his nose Alexei saw a large, chipped,
wooden spoon, black with age, and filled with amber-
coloured broth.
The first spoonfuls roused in him a wolfish appetite;
so ravenous was he that he felt painful spasms in the
stomach; but he permitted himself to take only ten spoon-
fuls and a few shreds of the tender white chicken meat.
Although his stomach imperatively demanded more and
more, he resolutely pushed the food away, knowing that
in his present state an extra spoonful might prove to be
poison for him.
Grandma's broth worked miracles. Alexei fell asleep,
not into a swoon, but into a real, sound, health-giving
sleep. He woke up, ate a little more and fell asleep again,
and could not be roused either by the smoke from the
hearth, the talking of the women, or by the touch of